Ninja Camp

Ninja Camp   Action Phase Games  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Adam Daulton   Art: Chris Byer, Jaqui Davis
Publisher: Action Phase Games
2-4 players  15-30 min. ages 10+  MSRP $20

text-the concept

It’s a little known fact that animals make the best ninjas. In fact, there’s a secret camp where they go to train. Whether you’re a hamster, a camel, a sloth or a platypus, Sensei Saru can teach you to master the arts of the shadow warrior.

Today, the Sensei has a special challenge for all his students. Each animal clan will enter the arena and face each other in a grand melee. You must use your skills combined with the opportunities you find in the arena to remain standing while others fall.

Do this and Sensei Saru will name your clan to be his personal apprentices, and the best students at Ninja Camp!

text-the components

The Ninja Camp is a card game. There are 80 cards in total.

There are 8 clan cards. These represent the different animal students attending Ninja Camp. Each player will play animals from a clan and each animal has a special ability you’ll be able to use once per game. The artwork is ridiculously charming and you may want to take a minute to let everyone look through the cards and decide which one they like best.

The main deck is made up of Skill cards, Walls and Traps. These cards will be laid out in a grid to form the training ground, the arena where your animals will compete for the Sensei.

Skill cards will make up the bulk of the arena. Each card describes a specific ninja move and shows the point value of the card.

Each player will also start with two basic skill cards to begin the game : Evade and Sprint.

Last but not least, each player has four wooden ninja meeples (ninjeeples!) These nifty little guys represent your animal clan and will move about the arena as you play cards.

You’ll take turns placing 3 of your ninjeeples into the training ground one by one, making sure each one is on a different Skill card. No ninjas allowed on the walls !

text-the mechanics

Ninja Camp is played over a series of turns. On your turn, you will either play a Skill card from your hand OR you will use your animal clan’s special ability. Your card or your clan ability will enable you to move one of your ninjas on the board.

Each clan has a very cool and very powerful special ability, BUT… you can only use your clan’s ability once per game. Once you have used it, flip your clan card over. Here are some examples.

Most turns you’ll be playing a Skill card from your hand.

Each Skill card describes a specific way you must move one of your ninjas on the board. You must be able to follow the movement instructions on the card in order to play it.

Here are the 7 different skills ninjas use to move in the arena:

Evade – move 3 spaces in any direction

Stealth – move 2 spaces and claim the first card your ninja steps onto.

Dodge – move 1 or 2 spaces, including diagonal

Sprint – move in a straight line until you reach an edge, wall, hole or another ninja.

Ambush – move straight until you land on an opponent’s ninja. Push that ninja one space back.

Leap – move over a hole in the arena and land on the next card after the hole.

Shadow – copies the skill of the last card played.

There are a few general guidelines that apply unless a Skill specifically allows you to break the rules: no diagonal moves, no passing through other meeples (yours or another player’s), and no passing through or landing on the same space.

One of the key challenges in the game is deciding what card to play and what ninja to move. But there’s another factor you have to consider on every turn and this factor is….

text-apart

When you move your ninja, you collect the card where your ninja began its move and add it to your hand.

This means you will have more options available in your hand of Skill cards as the game moves along.

Suddenly, the choice of which card to play and which ninja to move may be determined by what card you want to pick up OR what card you want to land on! You may move a ninja because you really need the Leap card where it currently resides. Or you may move a ninja because you want to finish your move on an Sprint card, so you can pick it up later on in the game or simply prevent others from getting to it.

Picking up cards from the arena also means that the board will have gaps or holes. This will make movement more difficult or downright impossible as the board continues to shrink turn after turn. It’s inevitable that your ninjas will come to a point where they are trapped in a small area of the board. The trick in Ninja Camp is to keep as many ninja active as long as possible so they can collect more cards.

When you cannot move any ninjas (or you choose not to move) you pass and play will continue without you. When all players pass, the game ends and we’re ready to score.

The cards you collect and/or play during the game determine your score. If you were unlucky and collected any traps, they count as negative points. You also get points for the cards your ninjas rest on at the end of the game.

This scoring system also adds a simple but nifty level to each choice you make in the game.

It might seem obvious that you want to head for the highest point value Skill cards as often as you can. And this does make them juicy targets. But there’s just one problem. The higher point value Skill cards are also the more difficult cards to use in the game because their movement rules are more restrictive. So you might end up landing on a big point Skill card but find it very hard to move from it. Most often, the player whose ninjas remain active and agile wins, not the player who focuses solely on big point cards.

text-final

A game of Ninja Camp feels like a sparring match. You act, your opponents react. It’s a dance of move and counter move on a rapidly shrinking board.

The beauty and fun of Ninja Camp comes from its simplicity and economy. Now, I don’t mean economy in terms of its price (though it is a great deal at $20). I mean economy of language in its rules.

So often games that offer challenging strategy on this level require a much more complex set of rules.

There are seven basic moves in the game and after using or seeing these moves used a couple times, it will be easy for most players to remember each one.

This means you don’t spend time fighting the rules ; you spend your time looking for the best possible option based on the choices available. No one wants to be mired in a laundry list of exceptions and rules to remember.

By keeping the rules so streamlined, designer Adam Daulton allows a wide range of players to dive into the game really quickly and gives each player a chance to discover the fun and challenge that comes from deciding what to play and who to move and trying not to get your ninjas trapped.

For this reason Ninja Camp makes a great game for both kids and families while providing a wonderful challenge for more experienced gamers as well.

The charming variety of animals and the random arena also gives Ninja Camp great staying power since it will be a different experience every time you play.

Ninja Camp finds depth through simplicity. That’s the kind of wonderful surprise that makes it Major Fun. And it’s a reason you might want to step into this arena and go toe to toe with the next clan of hamsters you meet!

***

Double Play

Double Play   INversion Games  |  BGG  |  Amazon

Designer: Alvin Sanico   Graphic Design: Alvin Sanico, Michael Graham, Scott Kim  Publisher: INversion Games  1-6 players  10-20 min. ages 10+  MSRP $9.99

text-the concept

Double Play is a set of word games a fun twist, literally. Every letter card in the deck is actually two different letters, depending on the direction you play the card!

text-the components

Double Play is a deck of Versatileletter cards. What the heck is a Versatileletter, you ask ? It’s a specially designed font that represents two different letters, depending on the orientation of the card.

That means an upside down t can be an f.   A d can be a p.

  

An h can be a y. Or an s can be a v.

 

Like Scrabble, each letter is assigned a value. But because each card is two letters, the value of the card also changes based on how you play it.

Every card back contains the entire alphabet, so if when you’re learning to decipher the letters, you always have a guide handy

text-the mechanics

There are four games included in Double Play:

Finders Stealers: A race to find the longest word from face up letters on the table (2 per player).

Solitaire Dare: Just like it sounds, lay out letter cards in columns and try to form words to play every card in each column.

The Final Word: A 2 player game where players take turns playing cards from a common hand, but only the last word played each round will score.

These first three games can be interesting and fun but the fourth game, Word Wars 1-2-3, is the reason Double Play is Major Fun.

There are 3 rounds in Word Wars 1-2-3. Each round you get a hand of 10 cards.

Your job is to form 3 words using all 10 cards. You’re looking for the three highest scoring words you can find.

Pro tip: you may want some scratch paper handy for each player to write out various words you find and the score for each word! I’d also recommend setting a timer (5 minutes to start; once you’re comfortable, reduce the time to 3 minutes a round).

Once each player has found his or her three words, you’ll compare your results.

I dealt myself a hand of 10, set the timer for 3 minutes.

Here’s your hand. See if you can beat me!

Here’s what I came up with. la (3) cuff (12) yuck (15)

First, compare Word 1, your lowest scoring word. The player with the higher value, scores 1 point.

Next, compare Word 2, the middle scoring word. The player with the higher value scores 2 points.

Finally, compare Word 3, your highest scoring word. The player with the higher value scores 3 pts.

If you make a clean sweep in a round you get a bonus of 4 extra points.

After 3 rounds of play, the player with the highest score wins!

text-apart

The innovative graphic design in Double Play is the heart and soul of the game. Without this fun twist, it would be like a thousand other word games under the sun. But this letter system will turn some of your assumptions about word games on their heads.

Unlike a traditional word game, Double Play avoids the bad mix of letters problem that has plagued many a Scrabble player through the decades. You don’t have to raise your fist and curse the spelling gods for giving you a hand that spells A-E-I-I-O-O-U because in Double Play that hand would also be

E-A-L-L-C-C-N. The dreaded Q-W-G-C-H-L-T is also P-M-K-O-Y-I-F. Or ANY combination of the two sets of letters! You may not find a 10 letter word in every hand or every round you play, but there is an amazing variety available in every hand. It’s up to you to find it!

Word Wars 1-2-3 takes full advantage of this variety and gives each player a fun word puzzle to solve each round. Especially if you add in a little time pressure, once you are familiar with the letter system, you’ll see how the deck and the rules connect to give you the sense that there’s always a better word just waiting to be discovered.

text-final

The designer of Double Play offers up a creative set of cards and a clever set of games but perhaps best of all, the designer encourages players to use the cards to find other ways to play. The wacky letter cards certainly entice you to try classic word games (try a crossword style game, building the board with cards) or even tweak the games they provide.

After a few games of Word Wars 1-2-3, we found it was even more fun to make each of our 3 words using the entire hand of 10 cards for all three words. This encourages finding longer and higher scoring words and can result in even more fun discoveries hidden in your hand.

Using the same hand above and three minutes, here are the 3 words I found with the Major Fun variant.

Knot (10) yuck (15) toughen (15)

See how you do using the same hand, using all 10 letters to form three words.

Double Play encourages players to be playful with the game itself. You can use the cards to find new ways to have fun. That’s a concept that’s woven into the fabric of Major Fun.

For its value, versatility and fun, any lover of word games will find lots of reasons to love Double Play.

And if traditional word games have left you frustrated, Double Play’s new twist gives you plenty of reasons to give it a try.

***

Game of Trains

Release Date: 2/13/2017 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:  36 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

You are the engineer of a futuristic train and you have a big problem. All of the rail cars attached to your engine are in the wrong order! The cars are arranged from high number to low. You can’t leave the station until all the cars are arranged from low to high. The first engineer to get their train in the proper order will win the Game of Trains!

Game of Trains is a fast fun card game. The artwork speaks to geek culture with tons of nerdy genre references but the game itself is easy enough for your grandma to play and enjoy.

This makes the game accessible to a wide audience.

It also makes the game Major Fun!

Game of Trains

Brain Games  |  Abacusspiele  |  BGG  |  Amazon

Designer: Alexy Konnov, Alexy Paltsev, Anatoly Shklyarov

Publisher: Brain Games, Abacusspiele, dv Giochi, Rebel.pl

2-4 players  20-30 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $14

Music credits include:

The Train   by Buddy Miles   |  the song

Mystery Train   by Little Junior’s Blue Flames   |   the song

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Team Play

Release Date: 10/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:  39  min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Team Play is game that draws deep from the well of classic card games. With hints of Rummy, Pinochle and even a little Euchre, anyone familiar with these classics will feel like you almost already know how to play.

You and your partner have goal cards you hope to achieve to score points. The goals ask you to collect sets of cards based on the colort or number, or both. There’s also a public goal that any team can try to accomplish.

The trick and twist to Team Play is that you can help your partner by passing cards each turn. If you pay close attention to the cards everyone is collecting, you’ll have a good idea of what cards could help or hurt your chances of success.

Tune in to learn why we think Team Play is a modern classic and most assuredly… Major Fun!

Team Play

Schmidt Spiele  |  BGG  |  Amazon

Designer: Johannes Schmidauer-Konig  Publisher: Schmidt Spiele

3-6 players  30 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $9

Music credits include:

The A-Team  by The Ukuleles  |  the song

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Chronicler

Release Date: 9/6/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:   43 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Chronicler is a small game with large aspirations.  With less than 100 cards, Chronicler explores the march of technology through time. You’ll be telling the story of your civilization through the tools you choose to build… in 20 minutes or less

Now, this isn’t a civilization building game in the long line of a complicated titles that gamers know and love. This is a civ builder kids and families can learn and enjoy. You’re not going to find historical depth in this level of game but it doesnt pretend to offer it. Instead you hit fast forward on the time machine. Plant the seed for your culture with a single card and see how your tech tree grows.

Tune in to learn what we love about Chronicler and why it deserves the Major Fun Award.

Chronicler

Deinko  |  BGG  |  Funagain

Designer: GB Kim  Publisher: Deinko

2-4 players  20 min.  ages 10+  MSRP $25

Music credits include:

Bidin’ My Time   by Sarah Vaughn   |  the song

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